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Gaffney serial killer shot to death, police say


South Carolina Law Enforcement officials say the Gaffney-area serial killer is dead. He died Monday in a shootout with police in Gaston County about 40 miles northeast of Gaffney. He's a career criminal named Patrick Tracy Burris. His last known address is North Carolina's Lincoln Correctional Center, where he was released on parole in late April before police say he murdered five people last week. WFAE's Lisa Miller has more. It may well be the end of an ordeal that drove many people in the small town of Gaffney to lock their homes, look behind their shoulders and buy guns. Police say the search for a man who killed five people in the Gaffney area ended in Dallas, NC, near Gastonia. Flanked by federal, state and local law enforcement officers, Cherokee County Sheriff Bill Blanton broke the news at a press conference last night that Patrick Tracy Burris is the killer. "Through forensics, we're able to prove today that the weapon he shot the officer with is the same weapon that all five of our victims were shot with," Blanton said. Police wouldn't release the caliber of the gun. Gaston County Police responded early Monday morning to a burglary call. Officers found Burris at the address in the Dallas area. It's not clear if he actually was in the middle of a burglary, but what we do know is that police looked him up and found he had violated his parole. They tried to serve him and police say he shot and wounded an officer in the leg. Officers then fired back. Law enforcement officials say they don't know why Burris targeted Gaffney. His rap sheet is long, but he didn't appear to have a history of attacking people. It appears that armed robbery is his most serious conviction. He's also been convicted of larceny, weapons violations and forgeries. In October 2001, Burris was convicted in Rockingham County - where he was living at the time - of three counts of breaking and entering for burglaries of several homes and outbuildings. Burris was tagged a habitual felon and sentenced to 10 years and 1 month. On April 29th, Burris was released on parole after serving 7.5 years at the Lincoln Correctional Center about 15 miles north of Gastonia. South Carolina Law Enforcement Division chief Reggie Lloyd held up a list of Burris' charges during the press conference. "Folks, look at this," Lloyd said, exasperated. "This is like 25 pages. At some point the criminal justice system is going to need to explain why this individual is out on the street. We owe that to the victims in this case, we owe that to the citizens who lived in terror for days. " On Monday, some businesses had signs that said they were closed because of the July 4th Holiday . Others were closed without a stated reason. And several businesses that were open had their doors locked with signs that told customers to knock or call if they wanted to go inside. That was the case at the Cherokee Chronicle, where editor Jim Holland had a sense of dejà vu. "This is my second serial killing I covered," Holland said. "In 1968, I was working for the Spartanburg Herald and we had the Gaffney Strangler. He killed three women in 1968 and they found out he killed one in 1967. This week has really been worse than that." Guns have been a hot item. At a pawn shop on Monday, eight people came in the span of 40 minutes looking for guns. They said they were there because of the murders. But several customers didn't want to talk on tape. They were too scared. Clive McIlrath was about to purchase a gun for his wife when he received a call from her. She told him about the suspect in Gaston County, NC , that police had shot. He quickly left, saying he might as well save a few hundred bucks. Over the weekend, Gaffney resident Dennis Rostenbach organized a target practice on his property. "We had a bunch of people over this weekend and we showed mostly women how to fire a handgun for their protection. Some of them live by themselves and they're concerned." Later, after hearing about the death of Patrick Tracy Burris, Rostenbach said the news was bittersweet. "I'm relieved and I'm glad they caught him. But now we go from relief to disgust. How did this happen?" Rostenbach also worries there are others just like Burris the parole board has let loose on the public.